Monday, 28 January 2013

First Blogaversary!

Well, I thought I ought to blog today, as it is my first Blogging Anniversary! Yes, I've been here a whole year, how incredible is that? (If you knew my techie status you would be equally amazed!) And what a year it's been (nothing like a few cliches, eh?) Met so many lovely bloggers and their blogs and learned so much by 'doing'. I may have wandered quite a way away from my initial concept, but you know, I don't really care! I like to keep up the textile link, but now and again life intervenes and you just stop doing things; but that's ok. You all seem to like reading about all the other stuff so I'm going to be more relaxed about it. Here's to the next few years!

The story continues from New Zealand. First I want to show you something you saw 'in the raw' as it were, fresh from Cathy's kiln.

Kit and Jim found just the right piece of wood, sanded it roughly and gave it a lick of white paint, then 'no-nailed' the tiles on. It looks great, and they are so very pleased with see it as soon as you walk in the front door! Well done Cathy, I KNEW it would look good!

The spa arrived the other day. They had booked a crane, a trolley and 3 men to site it at the end of the garden, over the fence. The driver turned up on his own with a crane, but no trolley. "I'll give yer a hand!" he says, cheerfully. "She'll be right. Gotta coupla skate-boards, mate?"

I didn't believe him However...................

Yup, you just wouldn't, would you? But they did, and fortunately it is now up and running. Despite having warm water in, which I thought was mad in a hot climate, it really is refreshing when the sun is beating down!

Krissie, Bex and Kit enjoying a well-deserved session in the spa....without Dylan and Fraser!

I went in myself this afternoon, and it was bliss. Imagine yourself, at, say, LA Fitness. In the spa. Without those women who insist on reliving the last 3 episodes of TOWIE. Without the creepy gent who spreads his limbs round the spa and wants to make conversation. Without the bubbles stopping after 15 minutes. Without having to shiver while you shower in the icy changing room. Add in brilliant sunshine and a gentle breeze. A gin and tonic on ice. No one else around. Ah, this is the life!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Hobbits and Sky Jumps

Our hottest day yet, between 26 and 29 degrees (thank goodness we aren't in Australia!) We drove down to Matamata, about three hours away, to Hobbiton, the film set experience. Now Jim and I had  intended taking a trip to see this from our 5-day break at the end of next week. But then we thought everyone would enjoy it so we all went. Yes, it was a bit of a hike, but as Kit says, distances are no problem because the roads are good and not too much traffic. Obviously Jim and I have read the books - several times, and seen the films, but none of them had done either, though Dylan has whizzed through the first 100 pages of the first book in LOTR which I brought with me for him. Nevertheless, they all throughly enjoyed the experience, and I wouldn't have missed it for the worlds.

The entire site is about 200 acres of the most wonderful undulating ground, trees, ponds, and fabulous small scale hobbit holes and gardens. They employ a team of gardeners to keep the gardens looking just right.

The boys had a grand time, but you can just see from this that the doors conceal a mere three foot deep  interior with rubble floor, used mainly to store implements. It would have been wonderful to step into a 'real' Hobbit-hole, but you can imagine how long the contents would last!

So many lovely shots, you really didn't know where to stop clicking! Jim was always bringing up the rear with his cam-corder!

    The scenery was stunning. This is a working farm, the sheep ad cattle are real and had to be painstakingly removed to other areas during filming.

     The approach across the bridge to the Green Dragon Inn, where we stopped for refreshments.

Yesterday Jim and I took the boys out for ice cream and popped into a store to buy the LOTR trilogy dvds for the family - but Dylan and Krissie want to read the books before watching the films! Apart from this little trip out, yesterday was a rest day, we all just chilled out, spot of ironing, spot of stitching, not very much of anything really. Kit and Krissie are working their way through Jamie's 15 minute mesa, we've had two so far, and the timings are getting better! Yesterday we had the spicey prawns and pasta with a fennel and lemon salad - yummy!

Today we have been into Auckland to go up the Sky Tower. I had jokingly said on facebook that I would do the many people took me at my word!

So, what d'you think? Is it me? Am I stupid? No, I must come clean, I wouldn't do it for a million pounds. They drop you gently from the very top, we were sitting in the cafeteria a floor down when I took this, then they hang you there for about 30 seconds, then DROP you very quickly, and everyone gasps /screams! As you near the ground they slow you down gently. I could scarcely bear to lean over the curved windows to follow the jumper down, so there is no way you'd get me up there jumping, or even doing the skywalk.  It took me all my nerve to walk on the glass floor!

                                                            Huh! They didn't fool me!

When we left the Sky Tower Kit drove us round to Mission Bay, to a very special destination!

KiwiYo is the Place to Go for teens and many others. Frozen yoghurt is the delicacy, but not just any frozen yoghurt. First you choose a size of container, then your flavour yoghurt. Then you add your sprinkles, marshmallows, fudge, Oreos, chocolate drops....oh, too many toppings (I had melon!) then you add your drizzle, chocolate, fudge, strawberry etc. They weigh your pot and you pay accordingly.

Yes, you can imagine the mess at Fraser's place at the table - thank goodness for wet- wipes!

Well, a quiet night in front of the TV now the boys are in bed - we are watching Primeval New Zealand. Early night I think! Catch you next time!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

From ice box to Oven!

This was the view from our back door the morning we left Norfolk for New Zealand. And I know from my emailing/facebooking friends and relatives how bad it got, I think we just escaped from Heathrow in the nick of time.

We arrived to rapturous excitement a couple of hours later than we should have, but we got here! Weather wasn't brilliant when we arrived but has bucked up considerably since.

Beccie's boyfriend Jack had been diving off the north coast with is family, and brought back a giant cray fish for us to have for supper that first night. I've seen smaller lobsters! Anyway it was beautiful, and we met him the next day - under-going Trial by Grandparents!

From Kit's top deck we had a view of the ocean! The sky looks strangely dull but it was actually very blue and very sunny.

We had a stroll along the beach, then the children played on the swings tip it was time to go home for a BBQ in the sunshine. Not that I'm trying to make you feel chilly!

Yesterday we had a trip out to Devonport, the Naval base. Kit had taken Jim and I there last time we were in NZ. This was better weather, and I had discovered there was a quilting shop there - thanks to an article in an old Australian quilting mag which I'd held onto. I have to say they didn't have much apart from plenty of fabric, and I was after some embroidery threads. However I did manage to get some nice fabric to make Beccie a cushion cover and some appliqué for her new bedroom.

The boys were very keen to explore the tunnels up at the Battery, though Bex found them spooky!

The view from the top. You get a panoramic view of the Auckland skyline, Rangitoto the slumbering volcanic island  just offshore, and Devonport itself. Lots of lovely old-fashioned wooden homes, very 'New England' I felt.

Fraser finds a cave! Just managed to catch up with him before he scooted off headlong into it!

                                        Mr Midshipman Fraser looking out to sea.

And Pirate Captain Dylan checking out the mechanics. Well that's all for now folks, am very tired, and we have a early start tomorrow. I know you will forgive my unpreviewed post - I'll do better next time! Keep warm!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Sunshine and stitching.

Well the sun is shining here in West Norfolk, in a clear blue sky, and it is so welcome after the grey and drizzle we've had recently. The real cold approaches, however, so I will be jolly glad to be leaving these shores for a wee while, heading Down Under to NZ to stay with Kit Krissie and the children. Deep Joy! The Kitchen Doorstep views are a little misleading as the sky looks a bit grey here...but it really isn't!

Some new shoots appearing, snowdrops, crocus, grape hyacinth, and a little further out of shot, some daffs pushing up through the soil. I hope the chives start appearing soon, I do miss them; but I think I need to replace some of them, we used to have masses of them around the garden but they have declined over the last couple of years.

Ouse Washes Molly side danced out on Monday evening, at The Hare Arms, a lovely pub in a hamlet called Stow Bardolph, not far away from Downham Market , West Norfolk. We would usually be dancing over at Ramsay for the Plough Monday celebrations, with a huge coterie of school children; however as the schools didn't go back until Tuesday the usual routine had to be altered. (If anyone wants to find out more about the Fenland traditions, and the history of the Ouse Washes Molly Dancers, do have a look at the OWMD website. Gordon 'Phil' Phillips, OWMD Squire, and Nicky Stockman, OWMD Muso-in-Chief, spend a lot of time working with Fenland children, introducing them to their own traditions and legends of the area, and teaching them the dances.

Unfortunately, anyone who managed to watch the Unthank Sisters' film A Very English Winter, shown on BBC4 in December, won't have seen the huge amount of footage taken of the children processing and dancing at last years' Plough Monday/Straw Bear event. Partly I suppose because of time contraints, but also because it seemed to us the BBC was nervous about showing so much of the children...political correctness gone mad??

We had a relatively small audience for our revels on Monday night, but the Landlord and bar staff were very appreciative and supportive, and it was a reasonably mild and DRY evening. My applique-adorned top hat was much commented on, and very favourable remarks made. I should be going into business selling hats for dancing and festival-going! I'm really pleased with how the first one turned out...I added more embroidery and was quite disappointed when I had to stop.

The only stitches I've used are straight stitch, fly-stitch and french knots. Oh you could say cross stitch but really it's just an extension of straight stitch.

 I have made the base for the second one, all in black this time, and I am embroidering the motifs BEFORE stitching them on, to save some of the contortionist antics required last time!

Today is Stitch and Bitch day, so more stitching to do, cake to consume and plans to make, much nattering to attend to. Such a nice, gentle day, I do enjoy them. I'm having a short rest before starting to prepare  the evening meal - grandson Chris invited himself round for dinner, and a pint afterwards with his Granddad. I hope your day has been as enjoyable.

PS A special word for readers in Australia Tasmania (especially you, Chris) I hope you and yours are safe and sound and have not been affected by those horrific bush fires.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Happy New Stitchy Year!

A very Happy New Year to all of you, and let's hope 2013 is a good one for all of us. And whatever the year throws at us, let's hope we meet the challenges head on, and with the love and support of good friends and loving family members.

The last few days has seen me feverishly stitching away at one thing or another, but mostly I have been stitching felt and/or felted wool. I had a cushion to finish off for Katy, a friend who has left the UK to live in France. She had expressed interest in the 'One Bird...upon a tree...beneath a star' cushion, which was a hot favourite at the craft fair earlier this year.

 I have already made another one for S&B friend Victoria, and thought I would do a slightly different one for Katy. For a start I have run out of the lovely grey wool I used for the background. I did however have a lovely pale blue blanket which I knew would fit the bill. I also decided that the text should be 'en Francais' so worked out the words I knew and put out a facebook call to friends I knew would be able to help with the ones I didn't. And this is the result:

Slightly different but I don't like to do exactly the same thing every time! And here's the text....sorry it was a bit difficult to catch on camera.

It reads "Un oiseau, sur une colline, sous une etoile" (can't do the accent on my keyboard.) If Katy reads this before it arrives , no worries, it should be with her tomorrow!

The other bit of stitchery I've been doing is a cover for my Molly Dancing top hat. I saw a photo on Pinterest which took my breath away...I can't put it on here, but you could google JaffaGirls and find it there. It was a top hat covered with brightly coloured felt shapes, and I just knew I wanted to do something similar. They had glued their shapes on which wasn't an option for me as my hat is on loan. And anyway, I wanted to be able to embroider mine as well. Now I haven't quite finished it, and since taking htese photos there is more stitching done, and there will be even more later today. But you can get an idea how it is going to look.

I didn't have enough black felt for the band, so this is really a prototype, the next one will be entirely on a black background.

And the top:

This is how I stitched the top on; next time I shall use black thread, I deliberately used a heavy, variegated thread which I knew would be visible. Now I think it would have looked better 'unseen'. But hey, that's what a prototype is for.

Ah, when I say variegated I mean green variegated! And next time I will applique and embroider as much as I can to the 'lid' before attaching; the stitching was quite awkward at times, despite felt being a very malleable material! However the shapes which overlap the joins will have to be added when the whole thing is constructed.

And a final view:

I have to say I am thrilled to bits with it, but am desperate to make another on black felt, with the flowers appliqued in a less 'ordered' fashion. And I have ideas for other shapes......moons and stars, leaping hares....birds......creeping vines with leaves and flowers....oooooooohhhh! Mouth-wateringly exciting ideas are filling my mind! Watch this space - I will put up a photo of the finished article with the final embroidery and added 'bits'.

I do hope you will be going into the New Year with a passion and enthusiasm for something you love. Catch up with you again soon!